Ice Jig Fine Points

By Mark Strand

Open up a well-stocked jig box. Pretty, ain’t they? Now, choose the right weapon for the situation at hand. Then, match that jig up with the right bait or plastic and make it dance in a manner that fish respond to.

-To help you make good choices and bring them to life, we sat down with Dave Genz, captain of the Ice Team Power Sticks and inventor of many jig styles we now take for granted in modern ice fishing. We asked him to think out loud, to show us through his personal jig selection and tell us how he typically fishes each one.

Make ‘em Strike It

Genz started with this important overall point:

“With most artificial lures,” he said, “you need to make the fish strike it. The biggest mistake fishermen make is when they see a fish come in, if it doesn’t bite right away, they stop jigging. Don’t let it sit there so they can get a close look at it. Pump it again, or keep it vibrating rapidly. Even when it’s tipped with live bait, don’t let ‘em examine it. You need to make ‘em strike it.”

As Genz pulled jigs from his boxes, we asked him how he fishes each one. It’s inside info that can make all the difference for you on the ice this winter.

An underlying theme seemed to be that, generally speaking, ice jigs can be quite small and still catch big fish. Even jigs that many anglers would classify as ‘panfish’ fodder can be awesome on walleyes, bass, pike and other big predators.

Genz spoke about the importance of frequently changing out live bait… buying enough so that you can change it often, and bulking up the presentation by gobbing on more than you might think. Especially when it comes to maggots, he talks about layering one on top of the other until you have “this wriggling mass on there.

-How you bait up is critical, too. Maggots must be thinly nicked by the hook through the fat end, so the juice spewing forth is clear, and the maggot wiggles hard. Wax worms should be either threaded carefully on the hook so they lay out absolutely straight (cutting down on line twist) or ‘T-boned’ (hooked once right at the middle) so they flutter and wobble. When it comes to plastics—which are really coming on because they work—straightness is so crucial that Genz simply yanks them off the hook if they don’t go on right the first time.

The Fat Boy, one of Dave’s creations, is his go-to bluegill bait. “We all have our favorite lures,” he says. “When I’m fishing with plastics, I use the bigger Fat Boys, but typically it’s #12 and #10 for ‘gills.”

Larger Fat Boys, he says, are often his top walleye baits, when bulked up with as many maggots as he can reasonably skewer on the hook.

His namesake, the Genz Worm, is a favorite shallow-water sunfish jig with many anglers, but Dave relies on it more for deep water, especially for perch and crappies. He makes heavy use of #6 and #8 sizes, for any fish holding below about 12-15 feet.

Both of these jigs are intended for ‘horizontal’ presentations.

Another namesake, the Genz Bug, is built with an angled hook for a reason. “It’s made to look like it’s swimming up,” says Dave. “It should be fished with a rising presentation. It looks like a mayfly larvae when you t-bone a wax worm on it and bring it up off the bottom. This is something fish are looking for in the winter.

-“I like to lower it all the way to the bottom, then swim it up with short jigging motions, raising it as I jig. It gives the appearance of a larvae swimming up off the bottom, with natural kicking strokes.”

In various sizes, he says it’s extremely effective on panfish, walleyes, “any fish, really, because they all look for this type of feeding opportunity.”

Baits that have strong horizontal movement when pumped, then swim naturally on a slack line, are known to call fish from a distance and trigger strikes. Genz’s top choice in this category is the Flyer, a bait with large wings on each side.

“I use it a lot,” he says. “It’s my walleye bait in the golden hour, as the sun is setting. It catches lake trout, pike, and bass, and the smaller sizes can be good on panfish, especially crappies. This bait swims in a large circle. You pump it, with a lift-and-drop motion, and it swims out, then comes back doing this side-to-side wobble, and stops. They strike it a lot right when it comes to a stop, so you should pause there before you do the next pump. But if they don’t take it right away, pump it again, take it away from them, make ‘em chase it.”

There are others, but we are running out of space. The Frostee “is my minnow jig,” says Dave. “The minnow creates the action, and the color helps with the attraction. The minnow makes it flicker, and the bait glows or shows other colors, depending on which one you’re using. You pick it up, let it fall, and the minnow starts swimming again. The lift-and-drop can get the minnow energized again. A fresh minnow increases the activity, puts out more vibrations to attract fish.”

Rattles can be a big deal, and the Rattl’r Spoon is his bait of choice in those situations. “But you have to shake it hard to get the most out of it,” says Genz.

Techni-Glo finishes have become the staple in almost every situation, with the possible exception of clear, shallow water on a sunny day. “A lot of jigs are available in Techni-Glo now,” says Dave, “and even some plastics.” To get the most out of glow baits, use a Tazer, a special energizing light sold at ice tackle dealers. It only takes a few seconds to ‘Taze’ the bait, but you need to do it often. ●

Winter Fishing Systems, Inc 2019